We all adore sport when it is at its most competitive. Close title races, match points and play-offs provide us with some of the most dramatic moments and bring out the best in the athletes and leave us watching with our hairs standing on end. But then we have the other end of the spectrum, one which in many ways can be just as enjoyable.
Watching an individual at the very peak of their powers blow all the competition away may not bring the same drama, but it does leave us utterly bewildered by their brilliance. Let’s start at the oche.
Phil Taylor - Darts
Nobody has dominated darts like Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor. From 1995-2006 inclusive, he won all but one PDC World Darts Championship as nobody could touch the Stoke-born player during that decade-long spell. He ended his career with 14 wins in that prestigious tournament and to put that figure in perspective, the next on the list is Michael van Gerwen with three.
Sixteen Betfred World Matchplay titles confirm his status as the greatest player of all time, along with 11 World Grand Prix wins and four European championships. He also holds the record for the most televised nine-dart finishes (11) and was the first person to hit two nine-darters in one match back in 2010. World number one for 13 years in his career, nobody did it quite like ‘The Power’.
Tiger Woods - Golf
In Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, golf boasts two of the finest sportspeople of all time in arguably the most difficult individual sport to dominate. Woods’ dominance in the late 90s and early 00s was simply remarkable, winning Masters titles in 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005 as well as the PGA Championship in 1999, 2000, 2006 and 2007.
With a joint-highest record of 82 PGA tour wins, his success was sustained over a long period of time, typified by his remarkable comeback win at the 2019 Masters win. He was the number one golfer in the world from August 1999 to September 2004 (264 weeks) and again from June 2005 to October 2010 (281 weeks) winning 13 of golf's major championships during that time. With his recent car accident, we hope we get to see Tiger back playing the full 18 as soon as possible.
Serena Williams - Tennis
The greatest female sportsperson of all time? It is difficult to look past Serena. She is the person who took women’s tennis to a new level. Having won 23 major tournaments, the most in the Open Era and only one behind Margaret Court’s all-time record, it feels like even at the age of 39 she has unfinished business. Her semi-final performance at the 2021 Australian Open shows she can still compete with the best, but we are running out of time to watch the great woman.
On two separate occasions in her career, 2003 and 2015, she has held all four Grand Slam titles while being ranked world number one for 319 weeks and on eight separate occasions. Want more? She also holds the records for the most women's singles matches won at majors with 362 matches and most singles majors won since turning 30-years-old. One more Grand Slam win would be the most fitting way to call time on this remarkable career.
Lewis Hamilton - F1
Lewis Hamilton will end his career as the most successful Formula One driver in history. When Michael Schumacher retired, nobody believed his record of seven World Championships would ever be beaten or even matched, yet here we are, with Hamilton about to start the campaign that could see that record tumble.
He shook up the sport when he made his debut in 2007 before winning his first title as the then youngest ever world champion. It took until 2014 for his second triumph but since then, he hasn’t looked back, winning all but one of the Formula One Driver’s Championships since then and losing the 2016 edition by just five points. Say what you like about the car he drives, but Hamilton has proved time and time again that there is nobody better.
Michael Phelps - Swimming
How could we put this list together without including the most decorated Olympian of all-time? 28 medals in total, 23 of them gold and 16 he won in individual events. The numbers just seem completely mythical at this point. In the pool he was simply in a league of his own, setting 39 world records across his remarkable career while his longevity was also something to be commended. The man competed at five different Olympic Games.
Making his Olympic debut at the age of 15, finishing 5th in the 200m fly, nobody knew the force he would grow into by the time the Athens Olympics came around. By then he was a man and scooped six gold medals and two bronze but it was in Beijing 2008, he achieved the perfect Games. The American entered eight events and won eight gold medals. The man was just a complete anomaly, the likes of which we are unlikely to see ever again.